Relocation Relocation Relocation

Leeds win the race to host Channel 4 beating Birmingham and Manchester.

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Consider the irony of Twitter’s plan to remove their ‘Like’ option on the day Channel 4 announce Leeds as their new HQ. It’s a decision that will illuminate few hearts across twitter accounts in Birmingham and Manchester.

Losing the opportunity to house Channel 4 is a bitter pill to swallow following a hard fought campaign to attract the national broadcaster to Brum. The #WMGeneration pitch showcased Birmingham and the West Midlands as an incubator for tomorrow’s producers, writers and developers being the youngest and most diverse city in Europe. 

The campaign galvanised community, business and political support. We demonstrated our region can unite behind an ambitious campaign. The call to welcome Channel 4 to our region has not been heard but it does not mean we lose the will to fight other campaigns.

Congratulations to Leeds for persuading Channel 4 to move out of London and making the North their new home. It’s a positive step in the journey to rebalance the UK economy away from the South East.

For us here in the West Midlands we will continue to focus on creating the headlines if not broadcasting them; lets keep those Michelin Stars twinkling, the cranes soaring, Metro expanding, Commonwealth flame burning, FTSE 100 headquarters coming, 5G testing and HS2 roaring. We have much to be proud of in the pipeline. Let’s get them delivered.

Today we lick our wounds. Tomorrow, Forward.

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham, a trustee for LoveBrum and contributor to The Asian Today newspaper. 

@jassansi 07930 837 505

 

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Building for the Future

A fascinating start to the day this morning at the Colmore BID office of DLA Piper. Insider West Midlands hosted a breakfast panel debate on Building for the Future. 

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There is an obligation upon those who shape the build environment; commercial and public buildings, houses and spaces to create legacy. You only have to look out of the windows of the room we sat in to see the impact of legacy; Birmingham Town Hall and The Council House.

There were two panels at the breakfast event; the first focused on building, the second on the strategic thinking of where society is moving and how to deliver accommodation for change. 

Historically, when buildings come down, the streets remain. Not any more. Architecture now incorporates the space around the building itself and one trend is emerging, the brakes on car ownership are quickly being applied. Automated vehicles are heading towards us. 

The room learnt Millennials have little appetite to be home or car owners. They want affordable places to rent with good transport links. Millennials want to live near to their workplace and value quality of life above property ownership.

A millennial in the audience took exception to being told he lacked aspiration of home ownership explaining cost made the desire impossible. I wasn’t surprised to hear the number of young people learning to drive has fallen by 30%. My 17 year old daughter is learning to drive but I cannot imagine her ever owning a car. Like all parents, I hope she will one day be a home owner. 

Another insight from the panel on future building is the notion of apartments sharing a communal kitchen.Young people it was suggested generally don’t cook, opt to eat out or ‘deliveroo.’ Imagine that; city dwelling, a shared kitchen, no cars, reliable public transport links, driverless car access via an app, maintenance responsibilities dispensed with, security, close to work places…the future is campus living.

This makes perfect sense. Why should students and retirees enjoy a monopoly on this lifestyle? 

Defining future living spaces is difficult. Lifestyles and priorities change as we progress through life.

Building for the future will always be trying to hit a moving target. The concept of campus living though sounds like it may tick all the boxes and hit all those targets.

A productive morning and lots of food for thought as I walked back to where my car was parked. The clock is ticking to the time I no longer walk to my car but rather it is summoned by an app to pick me up. 

I spent the rest of the morning at home clearing fallen Autumn leaves on a crisp but sunny day. There are some aspects to home ownership that are less fun than others. 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham.

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Whisper words of wisdom…

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No one seems to be happy about Brexit. Remainers are calling for a People’s Vote on the final deal and Brexiteers are up in arms about the Chequers Proposal. 

A People’s Vote would be like a second Scottish Independence Referendum; premature and risky. A barrister once told me ‘never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.’

We should sit back and allow Brexit to happen. I suspect the economy will retract with waves felt across the UK. This is the painful price of democracy. 

We will then enter a period of fiscal and most probably political change in an effort to hold back the tide of Brexit. 

It is the only way, Brexit campaigners are identified for the damage they inflicted on the country. For those who voted to Leave the EU because they felt left behind, the effects will be hardest. The Rees Moggs, and Boris Johnson’s of this country will not be tapping the address of the nearest food bank into the sat navs of their Bentleys. 

The time for a People’s Vote will be around 2022 when the demographics change and the effects most felt. Prevention is always better than cure but we are too far down this road of constitutional change. We risk damaging democracy if the vote of 17.4 Million people is ignored. 

Don’t fight fire with fire. Remainers cannot fix the problems caused by a Referendum with a second Referendum. It may even make things worse if Leave wins again. 

Words of Wisdom, ‘Stay in the EU’ were not whispered in the build up to June 2016, they were shouted. But they were not heard. 

I understand the ‘Bol**x to Brexit’ sentiment, there is no bigger Remainer than me but this is a hopeless battle. Rather than sacrificing more bodies in this clash of ideas, I say retreat to fight another day. If we are so sure the effects of Brexit will be damaging,  regroup after Brexit has done it’s worse and identify the lies of those who campaigned to Leave, with evidence. 

The country is united in it’s unhappiness with Brexit. The solution will be attained by playing the long game. Sit it out and wait. 

The team choreographing the PM’s speech in Birmingham last week missed an opportunity with the word ‘Opportunity.’ Mrs May’s speech in Manchester last year ended with letters falling off the backdrop. The word ‘Opportunity’ was projected in Birmingham but the first six letters O, p, p, o, r and t should have been digitally triggered to also fall leaving the word ‘unity.’ 

Lets face it, we’re all united in unhappiness with how things will be in March 2019. We need to be united in correcting this when the time comes. And it will come. 

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Staying Alive

Jas Sansi recovers from Conservative Party Conference. Prime Minister Theresa May waltzes back to London having buried the ghost of the Manchester speech.

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I’m writing this from the comfort of my bed as I nurse the aches and pains of lugging my camera bag and mac book around party conference over four days. The Health App on my phone is telling me my steps were almost as impressive as the PM’s.

I’m catching up on news coverage of the conference. The event is huge and everyone’s experience is unique. News coverage allows a degree of appreciating the wider picture. Impossible inside the eye of a storm.

I can’t imagine the party leadership could have wished for a better conference. Things that can’t be controlled, like the weather and Boris Johnson failed to distract from the event.

The sun stayed out in Birmingham for most of the time but failed to shine out of the former Foreign Secretary’s rear for any longer than the 90 minutes he spent in Brum.

I was photographing a Commonwealth Games fringe event when Boris Johnson surfed into the venue on a wave of a media scrum. Two of the panellists arrived late to the fringe having been delayed by the chaos around Bojo. His actions make for good TV but he causes disruption to others.

Delegates start to queue for the PM’s speech three hours before it starts to guarantee a seat. There are 2200 places available in Symphony Hall, some are reserved for Cabinet members, party donors etc. The remainder are allocated on a first come first serve basis.

The PM’s speech rallied the party activists, the foot soldiers who knock on doors and deliver political leaflets up and down the country come rain or shine.

Birmingham shone in many ways in delivering this conference. The 8 minute walk from New Street Station to the ICC is a building site. The Midland Metro extension through Victoria Square leads to the development of Paradise in Chamberlain Square which leads into the redesign of Centenary Square in front of the newly constructed HSBC headquarters.

So perhaps not the best pathway but it illustrates the city is on the up. And when the party returns in 2020, there’s no guarantee the builders will have packed away their tea mugs and spirit levels but the city will be enjoying it’s newfound confidence.

2020 is a significant year for Brum. The infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games will be powering forward, HS2 will be in the process of throwing a lasso around the capital and pulling it closer to our city. Our relationship with the EU will be clearer as transition nears the finish line. Metro Mayor, Andy Street will be up re-election and the bid for hosting the Conservative Party will be opened.

This year’s conference at Birmingham ICC set the bar for hosting an event of this magnitude to an incredibly high level from last year’s fiasco in Manchester.

The PM losing her voice brings the Manchester Central venue’s air cycling into question, conference is a incubator for germs with so many people in close proximity. The prankster who handed the PM a P45 during her speech should never have got close to her, this made a mockery of the security procedures. The set falling to pieces during the address was embarrassing for the PM. mortifying for venue operations.

Outside of the PM’s speech, delegates have to walk through a cordon of abuse from protestors in Manchester. Everyone has the right to protest in a democracy but its unfair to target delegates, media and venue staff who find themselves at the receiving end of verbal abuse. Sticks and stones and all that but this shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t happen in Birmingham.

It’s going to be difficult for Manchester Central to pitch their city as a venue post 2020.

This year’s conference in Birmingham was a master class in how to deliver an event of this size and complexity.

What does Birmingham and the ICC have to offer in an effort to entice a conference that injects Millions of pounds in the West Midlands?

Lets start with location; Birmingham is at the heart of the rail and road network. A train arrives into New Street every 37 seconds.

The iconic Spaghetti Junction is an interchange that allows road traffic from all parts of the motorway network.

Birmingham Airport is 20 minutes from the city centre by car and 10 minutes by train.

London, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and many of the UK’s core cities are two hours away.

Hotels, Serviced Apartments and Air B and Bs are more than ready to accommodate the 15,000 visitors the conference draws in.

That’s logistics and accommodation. Once here, the venue is in the heart of the city, a ten minute stroll from the train station. It will have a tram stop come 2020 or you can hop into a black cab, mini cab or uber.

Security into the ICC is robust but efficient. Once into the secure zone, which incorporates the Hyatt Hotel, you could in theory stay within the bubble for the four day duration. This would be a shame as the city has so much to offer.

 

 

 

Day 3 at Conservative Party Conference

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Fatigue kicks in at conference on day three. Early mornings and late nights mean operating on little sleep. Its perfect conditions to be caught off guard and say the wrong thing to the wrong person.

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Tuesday began with photographing Theresa May as she thanked the ICC team for delivering another superb conference.

I’ve seen a lot less of the PM at conference than usual. Possibly a good strategy to avoid conference flu. The last thing anyone needs is a repeat of last year’s lost voice episode.

After four days in close proximity to one another, coughs and sneezes are the soundtrack of Autumn conference.

Pakistani Friends of India welcomed guests to Castle Fine Art Gallery. Shaun Bailey, the Conservatives London Mayoral candidate appealed to the audience to support his campaign against Sadiq Khan 24 hours after pitching to Conservative Friends of India (pictured below.)

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West Midlands Combined Authority hosted a fringe on the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022. The cross party panel projected the power of unity as Boris Johnson took to the stage in Hall 1.

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Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright MP lent his support to the event in the audience. I asked him if there was any news on Channel 4’s move to either Birmingham, Leeds or Manchester. No news yet. 

And finally, a drinks reception hosted by Conservative Friends of Israel. The queue to get into the CFI (not to be confused with Conservative Friends of India) was breath taking, one of the biggest and most popular events at conference. 

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Got home at midnight and watched Boris Johnson’s speech on iPlayer. It was billed as a launch for Leadership. But if it looks like a leadership bid, sounds like a leadership bid and smells like a leadership bid, chances are its a leadership bid. 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Day 2 of #CPC18

Monday morning at Conference began with a fringe event organised by Conservative Group for Europe who asked the question ‘What does Autumn hold?’ Nicky Morgan was confident there would be a deal albeit not until late in December. She shared concern that she belonged to a party that was telling business to ‘eff off’ but still stood by the notion a deal was coming down the track.

The Loughborough MP’s confidence was not shared by Times columnist Simon Nixon who suggested we were closer to a No Deal than ever. 

There was universal disdain to the idea of a General Election in the event of Parliament voting against whatever the PM brings bag from Brussels. The prospect of putting life on hold for six weeks and offending Brenda from Bristol was the beyond the pale for Chair Antoinette Sandbach MP. 

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Jacob Rees Mogg proved a huge draw for a conversation on whether the party could win in Canterbury and Middlesborough at the same time. The Somerset MP was confident they could if the party were able to communicate their core message across the UK. 

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There’s a number of images on social media of Symphony Hall with vacant seats. The consensus of these is the conference is not engaging party members. This is wide off the mark. The real story of conference is the fringe, these are packed out. Early arrival is the only way to guarantee a seat.

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There are 274 fringe events here in Birmingham, a record number for conference.

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There are designated places for protest outside of the secure zone. These can be heard slightly in the marquee spaces. Brum in EU were asking delegates if Brexit is worth it?

The Ivy Birmingham was a brief escape from the Conference secure zone with BECG hosting a drinks reception with Housing Minister taking questions from the floor.

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The Indian Embassy Reception back at the ICC allowed Cabinet Minister Bingo with pretty much all the big hitters taking turns at the lectern. The 90 minute drinks and canapé reception was so well attended by the great and the good, it took 75 of those 90 minutes in to get through the speeches. 

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India will be central to the UK’s post brexit ambitions to strike a free trade deal. There are 300 million middle class people in the world’s biggest democracy, a huge market for goods produced and services delivered here.

Just a small issue of the UK easing travel and visa restrictions to India’s 1.3 Billion having binned freedom of movement for Europe’s 500 Million. Oh well, swings and roundabouts. 

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham

@jassansi 07930 837 505

Conservative Party Conference Day 1

Jas Sansi summarises day 1 at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

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In ten years of covering the Conservative Party Conference, this feels like the biggest one yet. With over 350 fringe events and Brexit negotiations at a critical impasse, there’s little surprise media presence is huge. 

There’s little appetite for a People’s Vote within the fringes I’ve attended so far, the very mention of the term at a fringe on how to attract young people to the party raised a noticeable hiss across the room. 

Andy Street’s step counter has probably melted faster than the party app, he appears to be on every devolution panel. This is hardly surprising, the Midlands Metro Mayor is the poster boy of Urban Conservatism. 

Andy Street was introduced to conference by Lord Digby Jones who took the opportunity to call Boris Johnson an irrelevance following the ‘f**k business’ comment from the previous Foreign Secretary. 

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward welcomed delegates to the city in a reception held at Library of Birmingham. He appealed to Government to trust Birmingham and ease off the cuts the council have had to absorb as Europe’s largest local authority. 

Security is as tight as always, though the biggest threat to the party appears to be from the enemies within. 

Prime Minister Theresa May kicked off conference on the Andrew Marr show, but has been under the radar ever since. The party leader always attends the National Express fringe event but pulled out of it last night. 

The area around the venue is a building site so not showing the city at it’s best but that’s the price of redevelopment and further regeneration. I suspect it will get worse before it gets better which may also be a good message for the negotiations with the EU. 

A warm welcome to Birmingham to all delegates, the politics may not be to everyone’s liking but it’s important to debate the issues. 

It’s good to see the conversation happening in Brum. 

 

Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham

@jassansi 07930 837 505